Absent God

 Why is the absence of God a problem? The Big Bang initiated time and space. Hydrogen is transmuted in the stars into the heavier elements of which we, and the world we live in, are composed. Tiny plankton are transmuted into mighty whales. People are born, live for a time and die. The process works fine and is not a problem except for us thinking reeds, le plus faible de la nature, as Pascal said. We wonder how the process came to be and then we wonder why. The ‘how’ we know a lot about and are learning more every day. The ‘why’ is another matter entirely. We don’t know why. Many believe, and nearly all the major religions teach, that God has something to do with the explanation. But what? The world and mankind is taken for granted. OK, God created it and us, but why he should do so is never made clear. It is simply accepted as a fact of life. Thomas Aquinas says that creation is an act of love. Love pours itself out. This may be true but it raises more problems than it solves. Traditionally the main problem has been the fact of evil. If God is all-powerful and if he loves us why does he allow evil? But equally difficult is the problem of the absence of God. If God made us to know and to love him, as the Catechism says, why is it impossible to do either of these things?

I used to think that St. John had it all sorted out. He said that no one has ever seen God but that in loving our neighbour we love God because God is love. He doesn’t say that in knowing our neighbour we know God although in the OT the two terms are often interchangeable. So how can loving our neighbour be loving God unless the act of loving itself is divine, is of the essence of God. In which case we need to ask what is love? 

But none of this solves the problem of the absence of God. Granted that in loving we may be loving God and granted too that God loves us, that his Spirit dwells within us, but none of this impinges on our consciousness. We are not aware that in loving we are engaged in a divine activity. Nor are we conscious of God’s love for us. When we pray our words fall into silence. When we sit, mute, attentive in the stillness for some sign of the loving presence within, or without, there is only an empty darkness. God is not there. Why?